Mike and I decided the best use we could find for the very last week of summer vacation was to go on a road trip, touring the educational, historical and generally uplifting sites and sights of southern Colorado. You know how it is, you live in a state all your life, but you seldom go see the fabulous things other folks come from half way around the world to marvel at.

So now we have rectified that, for at least a portion of our home state. These next eight pages show the best pics from all the ones I took. Come on and take a little virtual vacation yourself!

We left from our home in Lamar, Colorado, heading west to La Junta, where we took the Highway 350 truck route. Only an hour, and we were already on a totally new road we had never seen before!

It's wonderful scenery, if you like the plains (as we do). Highway 350 runs more or less along one branch of the old Santa Fe trail.

Here's Mike standing by the sign. I don't think that's the Santa Fe Trail right by him, though, just the path out to the marker.

If you like to look at ghost towns and abandoned places, I highly recommended Highway 350. There are a respectable number of what seem to be working ranches along the road, but the old towns are pretty much down for the count. This was the One Stop store in Delhi.

An old gas station in a town called Model.

We'd gotten the traditional mythical good early start, so it was late afternoon by the time we made it to Trinidad. We'd been here once before when we took a day train ride for Mike's ninth birthday. This time we mostly just drove around looking at things, since we arrived just AFTER closing time for all the museums. I did make the happy discovery that the McDonald's offered a free wifi connection, though!

Here's a picture of the mesa that marks Trinidad, with its head in the clouds. We got rained on every day of the trip, which really helped add to our feeling of being in a strange and exotic locale!

The next morning we left Trinidad via Highway 12, The Highway of Legends. Now we were in the foothills/low mountains, with plenty of scenery to see when I wasn't riding the brake and worrying about making all the drivers hehind me mad.

I don't know what this gate led to, but I loved the fencework so much I had to take a pic!

Getting into the wildlife area now!

This region is notable for the many walls and spikes of roundish rock that just sort of shoot up out of the ground at random. Pretty cool looking,

We stopped to rest my braking leg for a while and tour Old Fort Garland. This was one of the forts from which troops were sent to fight the Battle of Glorietta Pass, which was the westernmost battle of the Civil War. Lots of neat stuff to see, including a room dedicated to the "Buffalo Soldiers", the African-American troops of the Western Expansion that so few people know about.

Mike's middle school mascot is the eagle, so I took this pic for him, two Eagles together!

Our next goal was the Great Sand Dunes, which was recently been upgraded from National Park to National Monument. This is what it looks like from a distance.

When we got the little receipt from the Park Ranger, we were cautioned to keep it on our windshield, because we had to show it when we were leaving. It seemed weird to me that you had to have proof of payment to be allowed to LEAVE. But there was a lot of construction going on inside (new campsites and parking spots) and I figured later that some enterprising souls must have been begging the receipts off of campers to reuse or resell them, since they are good for seven days.

Here's another view from inside the park, out on the sands. The dunes formed from millennia of westerly winds picking up sand and not QUITE managing to blow it clear over the Sangre de Christo mountains. So it all piled up at the base. Quite a lot of it.

It's kind of like a beach without an ocean.

Mike wanted to bury me in the sand, but I was afraid of getting sand in my camera, so I demurred. I am STILL knocking sand out of those shoes, though!

My sand angel.

When they say GREAT Sand Dunes, they are not just indulging in hyperbole!

The educational displays inside the visitor center are great. Here's Mike turning a wheel that moves a fan to blow sand around in different directions, showing formation in Quicktime, as it were. Or maybe Flash.

I'm not sure if these skulls were found in the actual sand or what, but it's an interesting way to show the various indigenous animals.

A gorgeous piece of art adorning the gift shop.

Next, on to the Alligator Farm and the first half of our trip on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge!

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Pictures copyright Susan Crites 2006